Focusing with troubling anxiety
A Focuser asks how to get rid of her debilitating anxiety, which can sometimes take her over and even lead to panic attacks.
This is a surprisingly common question, although perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised, as we all live with anxiety to a greater or lesser extent. Anxiety is part of us all. It is probably made worse with uncertain times in our world situation, and there are often times in our life situation that creates extreme anxiety, such as the threat of serious illness or losing one’s home or job security.
But what if there is no immediate threat and yet you are beset by anxious feelings, maybe waking in the night, or feeling panic in the morning. In this case it may be the result of past traumas, that you just got on and dealt with at the time, but were unable to deal with the emotional repercussions, and they stayed hidden until later in life when there was enough space and time for them to surface.
This is when they need to be given the attention you were unable to give them at the time. They may have been hidden for many years, and when they do emerge, you may not recognise them or where they come from. It is not helpful to ask the feelings why they have come. We may or may not know, and the feelings may not know why they are here. They just are. It can be frustrating, not knowing where they have come from, but is more helpful to allow them to be there, just as they are, without trying to understand them at the beginning. Understanding why often comes later in the process.
At the beginning, it is more important to develop a kind and gentle relationship with your feelings. They need to be heard and accepted for what they are. They want to tell you what they need, and they want to be respected, without being told that are wrong. You will also need to accept and listen to the part of you that feels frustrated. It is all part of the process of listening to yourself.
I spoke to my colleague Barbara Robinson today, and she says to notice and be aware of your relationship to fear or anxiety. Do you welcome it or deny it? If you deny it, it can potentially overwhelm you, or sabotage you.
If you don’t see it is there because you have denied it, it can ambush you. It is not helpful to try and manage your feelings, or to try and get rid of your feelings. That gives the impression of being in control.
Barbara says that we’re never in control of our feelings. However, we can always have a relationship with our feelings. That for me sounds enormously hopeful. There is a way forward.